In response to one of my recent posts about male suicide, my good friend published his own experiences and thoughts during his daughter’s teenage years. He wrote a comment (which I’ve probably taken out of context and if so, I apologise but lots of people actually do think this way) that suggests the act of suicide is selfish but that it can sometimes be justified.
Fellow-blogger comments on his post varied: “I have deep empathy for those who carry around so much pain in their heart that they can see no other option but ending their consciousness. It is tragic.”
“Every person is different. In some cases, there may have been an obvious cause of the person’s unhappiness, but sometimes it is much harder to comprehend what has contributed to the hurt they carry with them.”
“I believe that people who commit suicide suffered a long time before, they just want to end the suffering. It is a specific state of mind.”
“It brought the scale of life and death into my head, this would become an almost never ending fight within my mind till the age of 30 maybe. It flairs up, big time, during depression. The option is horrible, the fight difficult”, one blogger admitted. “We all struggle but we don’t know the struggle of others.”
My own response was:
Suicide (carried out by anyone) must be horrendously painful for those left behind, never knowing why and wondering if they could have done anything to prevent it
Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly a symptom of our time and a downside of social media, which has highlighted many teenagers ‘deficits’, ‘lack of’ and ‘must-haves’, is heaping lots of unwanted additional pressure on our youngsters in particular. Young people are using social media, admitting to being sad, lonely, depressed and experiencing social anxiety or other anxiety disorders and eating disorders.
Social media and suicide is a relatively new phenomenon, that’s swept around the world in the past decade, which influences suicide-related behavior. Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, in the year 2020, approximately 1.53 million people will die from suicide. There is increasing evidence that this behavior of using social media affects and changes people’s lives, especially in teenagers, Wikepedia, 2018.
Kids lives are being determined by what they’re reading and seeing online, on t.v. and in glossy magazines. Unfortunately, these days our kids don’t want to work on building sites, as bus drivers, in offices, coffee bars, high street stores or Tesco’s. They all want to be footballers or WAG’s, models and celebrities, as seen on ‘Housewives of Cheshire’ or ‘The Kardashian’s and all the other dreadful reality tv shows.
Kids feel under pressure to look a certain way, buy clothes or make-up they can’t afford, carry oversized and overpriced designer bags. If they feel they don’t match up to ‘everyone else’s’ standards it reinforces their negative view of themselves. It impacts on their confidence, self-esteem and mental health. And let’s not underestimate the added pressure, when they don’t fit in, of bullying both in person and on social media — in many cases over the past ten years cyberbullying has led to self-harm and suicide.
There’s also lots of young people who have to act as carers for their parents and siblings — imagine having that stress as a youngster — and the effect that has on their mental state. Some of our kids have to live with chronic pain or physical disabilities and many have suffered from various abuses – all of whom are/have experienced great trauma and often feel suicidal.
My friend wrote in his post regarding our war Veterans saying, in regard to suicide amongst Vets, “the evidence against them is just anecdotal right now, because nobody has yet thought to measure such things.” I wanted to address this as it’s of great interest to me. I have family and friends who’ve been deployed to war zones many times and fortunately, they’ve all come home safe and well. I’ve also had the honour of instructing Mental Health First Aid courses to some support agencies who work with the Vets.
When I was on a break on one of these courses, in the garden, there were six or so Vets (who temporarily lived in this particular hostel, having been living on the streets for up to five years) sitting, separately with no eye contact and no engagement. I instigated a conversation with one of these heroes and one by one, they all joined in, telling me and each other how they felt about being homeless, about feeling suicidal, the lack of support and the feeling of being let down. They said they all appreciated that I was there to ‘teach‘ their support teams as they felt their mental health wasn’t previously being addressed.
Veteran suicides have increased in the last few years and it’s not surprising considering what they’ve seen and had to endure, but even more than that, some have and still are being prosecuted for doing the job they signed up to do.
In addition to my comments on my friends post, I wanted to add this short excerpt from a debate at Westminster in April 2019. Stephen Morgan, MP Labour:
“I love my family but hate my life. I need help. I’m scared now it hurts.” Those are the words sent in an email to the mental health services by David Jonathon Jukes, who served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq twice, and Afghanistan.
Despite what he did for his country, David was let down in his time of need. He was let down in 1997, when he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but still deployed to a war zone, and was failed many times thereafter. On 9 October 2018, David Jonathon Jukes, a veteran of five conflicts, took his own life.
Morgan went on to say that there are about 5 million members of the armed forces community in the UK, and about 15,000 men and women leave service each year. It is important to stress that the majority of those individuals do not experience a decline in mental health upon their transition to civilian life, but we are here to talk about those who do. Last year, 58 veterans took their own life. That is a shocking statistic—but most important, a shocking loss of life.
I know and appreciate suicide doesn’t make sense to many but if you haven’t walked a mile in someone else’s shoes……… if you haven’t seen their darkness……….. if you haven’t felt their pain……. or you haven’t heard their cries……..
What is a ‘mountain’ for some is a ‘molehill’ for others. People have different levels of coping skills; some don’t have any at all, and often for some, the various pressures build up, one on top of the other — until they feel they just can’t go on, when they can’t see any other way to relieve their suffering.
There’s often outcry that it’s a selfish act or a bad thing but I, like many others, have twice seriously considered taking my own life. Once after the break down of my relationship with my sons’ father (which led to psychotic depression) and the second time when I was struck down with this damned illness, Transverse Myelitis because I felt like I couldn’t live if I was left paralysed.
Thankfully, I regained the ability to walk but still had to be medically retired from the job that I loved as a Mental Health Nurse/Ward Manager and Mental Health First Aid Instructor. The one thing that stopped me from dying by suicide was that I didn’t want to leave my sons and my now-partner of 11 years with that legacy.
In hindsight (isn’t it a wonderful thing), of course, I’m really happy to have seen my sons through University, watched them receive 7 degrees, 3 Masters and 1 PhD between them (proud mama moment), to have witnessed one getting married recently (hopeful of the next one – my other son that is) and to have spent some amazing times travelling with my partner.
Am I selfish — I still experience terrible flashbacks, nightmares where I’m woken by my own screaming, shouting and kicking out, depression and anxiety, constant automatic negative thoughts (ANT’s)), suicidal thoughts and ideation but I don’t have the intent. I don’t want all of this and despite my mental health training (over 10 years), knowledge and skills to teach and support others, the counselling I’ve had and the medication I still take — all these things still occur! Like it or not, I’m stuck.
The real tragedy of suicide is that it’s a permanent solution to what should be a temporary problem.
Note: I use the term ‘die by suicide‘ as opposed to ‘commit suicide‘ which smacks of a crime (which, incidentally it was up until sixty years ago in the UK).
Did you have any thoughts or feelings (psychologically or physically) as you read this post? I’m really interested in what you think and feel about suicide.
If you think someone might be suicidal, ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don’t be afraid to do this, it shows you care and will actually decrease their risk because it shows someone is willing to talk about it. Make sure you ask directly.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please seek professional support. ITV This morning programme recently put together this useful list of helplines where you can find more information and advice.
NHS Choices – Suicide
Comprehensive help and information from NHS Choices with links to external websites.
Tel: 116 123
Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123 email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.
Text Shout to 85258
Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.
MindInfoline: 0300 123 3393
The MindinfoLine offers thousands of callers confidential help on a range of mental health issues. Mind helps people take control of their mental health. We do this by providing high-quality information and advice, and campaigning to promote and protect good mental health for everyone. They also provide a special legal service to the public, lawyers and mental health workers.
HOPELINEUK – 0800 068 4141
Support for anyone under 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide, or anyone concerned that a young person may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Helpline: 0800 58 58 58
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) works to prevent male suicide and offers support services for any man who is struggling or in crisis. CALM’s helpline 0800 58 58 58 and web-chat are for men in the UK who need to talk or find information and support. The services are open 5pm–midnight daily and are free, anonymous and confidential. For access or to find more information visit thecalmzone.net
Helpline: 0800 11 11
ChildLine is a counselling service for children and young people. You can contact ChildLine in these ways: You can phone on 0800 1111, send us an email, have a 1-2-1 chat with us, send a message to Ask Sam and you can post messages to the ChildLine message boards. You can contact ChildLine about anything – no problem is too big or too small. If you are feeling scared or out of control or just want to talk to someone you can contact ChildLine.
Kooth.com is an online counselling service that provides vulnerable young people, between the ages of 11 and 25, with advice and support for emotional or mental health problems. Kooth.com offers users a free, confidential, safe and anonymous way to access help.
Helpline: 0808 802 5544
Parents’ Information Service gives advice to parents or carers who may be concerned about the mental health or emotional well being of a child or young person.
Helpline: 0808 808 4994
Life’s tough, we know that. It can throw a lot your way and make it hard to know what the hell to do with it all. So, welcome to The Mix. Whether you’re 13, 25, or any age in between, we’re here to take on the embarrassing problems, weird questions, and please-don’t-make-me-say-it-out-loud thoughts you have. We give you the information and support you need to deal with it all.
Students Against Depression
Students Against Depression is a website offering advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves – after all, who are better placed to speak to their peers about how depression can be overcome.
Tel: 020 7263 7070
At Maytree, we provide people in the midst of a suicidal crisis with the opportunity for rest and reflection, and give them the opportunity to stay in a calm, safe and relaxed environment. We can support four “guests” at a time. The service runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our warm and friendly volunteers and staff team spend up to 77 hours with each guest over their stay, giving them the opportunity to talk through their fears, thoughts and troubles.